A USAID-sponsored training in Bogot√°, Colombia, in May drew 30 LGBT activists from across the country. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Global LGBT advocacy efforts were among the issues discussed during the U.N. General Assembly this week in New York.
USAID, the Swedish International Development Corporation Agency (SIDA,) the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and the Ford Foundation on Tuesday hosted a meeting of funders of global LGBT advocacy efforts.
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, SIDA Director General Charlotte Petri Gornitzka and former Planet Out CEO Megan Smith, who is now vice president of Google[x], attended the gathering alongside high level officials from Austria, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Swedish, the United Kingdom, the U.N. Development Program, the State Department and the World Bank.
Representatives from the American Jewish World Service, the Arcus Foundation, the Fund for Global Rights, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute, the Dutch foundation Mama Cash, the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, the Open Society Foundation and the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights are among the other groups that took part in the meeting. Organizers said it drew 85 percent of groups around that contribute to global LGBT efforts.
‚ÄúIt was a seminal moment in history because it is the first global meeting where public and private donors for LGBT equality came together to discuss priorities, programs and potential collaboration for ways forward,‚ÄĚ senior USAID advisor Claire Lucas told the Washington Blade on Friday.
USAID in April announced the LGBT Global Development Partnership with the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute, (SIDA) and other groups will contribute $11 million over the next four years to advocacy groups in Honduras and other developing countries. The initiative‚Äôs first two trainings took place in the Colombian cities of Cartagena and Bogot√° late last month and in the spring respectively.
Denis Dison of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute added his organization remains ‚Äúproud‚ÄĚ to ‚Äúpartner in this work‚ÄĚ with USAID and Astraea as he discussed Tuesday‚Äôs meeting with the Blade.
‚ÄúThis meeting was an important step in recognizing the truly global effort to advance LGBT human rights, and the leadership role now being played by the U.S. is a remarkable turnaround from just a few years ago,‚ÄĚ he said.
Funders of global LGBT initiatives met in New York two days before Secretary of State John Kerry and representatives from 10 countries issued a declaration that calls for an end to anti-LGBT violence and discrimination.
Members of the LGBT Core Group at U.N. that includes the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and ministers from Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, El Salvador, France, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Norway declared their ‚Äústrong and determined commitment to eliminating violence and discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWe reaffirm our conviction that human rights are the birthright of every human being,‚ÄĚ the statement reads. ‚ÄúThose who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) must enjoy the same human rights as everyone else.‚ÄĚ
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Affairs Dean Pittman told the Blade during an interview from New York on Friday the meeting and the declaration underscores the U.N. and the U.S. are committed to ‚Äúpursuing and advancing LGBT rights around the world.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúEverybody‚Äôs reinforced the idea that everyone deserves human rights,‚ÄĚ Pittman said. ‚ÄúIt shouldn‚Äôt be a decision of who you are, who you love, what your gender is.‚ÄĚ
Pittman further categorized the statement as ‚Äúreally strong, powerful.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThis really has a ripple effect that sort of goes out through LGBT communities around the world who see this as sort of a vote of confidence,‚ÄĚ he told the Blade. ‚Äú[It] sort of gives them the ability to go into their own communities with the backing of a global organization like the U.N. to pursue some of these human rights issues in their own countries.‚ÄĚ
The meeting took place two months after the U.N. officially launched a public campaign¬†that seeks to increase support for LGBT rights around the world. It’s been¬†endorsed by¬†singer Ricky Martin and others.
More than 70 countries around the world continue to criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts in spite of a 2011 resolution in support of LGBT rights the U.N. Human Rights Council passed. Gambian President Yahya Jammeh on Friday said in his speech during the U.N. General Assembly that homosexuality is among the three ‚Äúbiggest threats to human existence‚ÄĚ as the Associated Press reported.
85 countries have also backed a U.N. General Assembly declaration in support of LGBT rights.
President Obama earlier this month met with two Russian LGBT rights advocates during the G-20 summit. Both he and Kerry have also criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin over his country‚Äôs LGBT rights record, which includes a law that bans gay propaganda to minors.
Pittman declined to say whether Kerry discussed Russia‚Äôs LGBT rights record during his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday during the U.N. General Assembly. He said Jessica Stern, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, briefed Kerry and other ministers on the country‚Äôs gay propaganda law before they issued their declaration.
‚ÄúThis is an issue we‚Äôve raised with the Russians at many levels and repeatedly,‚ÄĚ Pittman told the Blade. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs obviously unacceptable.
Council for Global Equality Chair Mark Bromley welcomed the meeting and the resolution.
‚ÄúOne would expect Syria and Iran to be on the agenda, but not necessarily human rights for LGBT people,‚ÄĚ he told the Blade, referring to the U.N. General Assembly. ‚ÄúFor a group of committed foreign ministers to come together during this time, including Sec. Kerry, to pledge collective action to respond to human rights abuses directed at LGBT communities worldwide is unprecedented.‚ÄĚ
Chris Johnson contributed to this article.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry participates in an LGBT ministerial event in New York on Thursday during the U.N. General Assembly. (Photo courtesy of the State Department.)